THE NUMBER OF bridge strikes in the UK remains alarmingly high, the government Traffic Commissioner is warning.
In 2020/21 there were 1,624 incidences on the Network Rail infrastructure alone. There are many more incidences of commercial vehicles using inappropriate routes, including not complying with weight limits, which results in damage to roads, congestion and road user safety risks.
The serious financial implications of bridge strikes and their impact on drivers and operators can be significant. A bridge strike in St. Helens resulted in a public inquiry which found the cause was the driver’s failure to carry out his responsibilities in a professional manner. He lost his HGV driver’s licence and was disqualified six months.
Additionally, the traffic commissioner also found that the operator could have done more to prevent the incident and the operator’s licence was permanently curtailed.
Causes of Bridge Strikes
One of the reasons for bridge strikes is poor route planning and inappropriate satnavs, which don’t warn the driver of low bridges on routes. Whilst satnav technology can be used effectively it should be fit for commercial use. Good satnav devices will regularly be updated with up-to-date information on the road network, including height restrictions.
Having suitable satnav equipment is not a substitute for effective route planning, but it may help the driver to avoid low bridges, especially when routes change during a journey.
The traffic commissioner says they expect operators and drivers to treat this issue seriously and take responsibility. Failure to do so could lead to an operator or driver having to appear before a traffic commissioner.
Minimising the Risk of Bridge Strikes
- Make sure your satnav is a commercial vehicle satnav, not one designed for a car. Planning a route on a device that thinks you are driving a car has too many risks. Make sure your device is up to date. Roads and maps are constantly changing. It is your responsibility to plan correctly.
- Make sure that if satnavs are provided to drivers, they are trained to use them – and the correct checks and procedures are in place to ensure they do. Drivers must know how to set the alarm if they run close to an obstacle.
- Have a satnav policy in your business. Set rules for use of personal satnavs.
- Don’t assume you know the restrictions on a road, check first.
- Double check on an up-to-date map. You could use Google Street Views to get a sight of an unfamiliar route or junction, including delivery or pick up points. Operators should establish whether there are any localised issues that impact on routes and include this in customer information notes for drivers.
- Know your vehicle height, width and weight, and ensure all drivers do too – provide height conversion charts.
- Even when your vehicle is not in service your must still plan your route. Taking unsuitable shortcuts back to the depot or when going for maintenance is a risk.